Resisting God’s Gifts

Like most toddlers, my 18-month-old loves exercising what little independence she has. Recently, she’s discovered that she can sneak in and help herself to some grapes when one of us unsuspectingly opens the refrigerator door. Unfortunately, what she doesn’t know is that the grapes she’s eating are dirty.

I usually don’t rinse fruit until right before we eat it, so when she helps herself without permission she’s getting grimy grapes straight from the store. When I catch her in the act, I intervene, grab a handful of grapes, and rinse them off for her. But rather than accept the bowl of freshly rinsed grapes I offer her, she throws a fit, turns her back, and reaches in for another dirty grape. It’s really quite ridiculous. What I’ve come to realize, is that it’s not about the grapes at all. It’s about doing things her way, even if what I have to offer is better.

This scenario sounds oddly familiar…{and here I go putting my spiritual spin on things…}

We live in a world where we’re told to work hard and be independent. We’re made to feel that accepting something freely is free loading. We feel like in order to get something, we must earn it or, at the very least, return the favor. It feels awkward to simply receive. Think about it…when was the last time you received a favor or a gift without feeling the slightest twinge that you should do something in return.

But isn’t that exactly what God, often, calls us to do?

To receive His love.

To receive His grace.

To receive His forgiveness.

But our human nature fights this.

My walk with the Lord has been a journey of learning to surrender my life to Him, one area at a time. For years there was one area in particular that I struggled to let go of. I would go through the same agonizing process every few months for years. I’d “surrender” it to the Lord only to take it back and feel defeated all over again. When it finally became too heavy of a burden to carry anymore, God opened my eyes to how stubborn I was being. It was as if I was saying, “Okay, God, I trust you with everything else except this one thing. I’ll figure out how to deal with it myself.”

But God in His great mercy revealed to me that He was offering me healing, but that I was refusing to accept it. In His great love, all that He was asking of me was to simply receive it and trust Him. His path to healing was much different than what I expected, but His ways usually are.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” 

Isaiah 55:8

God knows the big picture of our lives, we don’t. His ways are good even though we may not understand them. His plans are to give us hope and a future. Never to harm us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We must trust Him at His Word and hold onto this truth.


 Pray & Reflect

 How difficult is it for you to freely receive a favor or gift? How does that translate into your acceptance of God’s work in your life?

Have you been resisting Him and trying to do things your own way? Confess anything that you are struggling to completely surrender to Him. He wants to restore you, but you must ask and be willing to trust and follow His ways.


 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

Ephesians 3:20

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He is at work within you. Preparing you for something far beyond what you can imagine. Accept what He is offering. It is good.


 

Image credit: flickr.com

 

Soccer Moms Sin, Too

This year my husband and I coached our 8-year-old daughter’s soccer team. At the beginning of the season, we had three girls who had never played soccer and two who weren’t excited about playing. Our goal was to make soccer fun! 20140913_113203

My husband’s gift for motivating kids along with his competitive nature resulted in a great season with only one loss.  By the end of the season, the girls had gained confidence and developed a love for soccer. You can imagine our excitement when our team made it to the championship game.

The week of the final game was crazy. Due to impending storms, the tournament schedule was pushed up and the girls had played three nights in a row. The night before the big game, the girls had played through the rain. By game day, everyone was pretty worn out.

All season I had been intentional about keeping things positive even when mistakes were made. I had been the girls’ #1 cheerleader, but for this last game something felt different. Even though I wanted to encourage the girls, the words that came out of my mouth felt forced and insincere. Instead of shielding the girls from the grumbling on the sidelines, I found myself joining in.

My thoughts became suspicious and I became “huffy”. I was convinced that the other coach was trying to trip up our girls. I was ready to accuse the other team of playing “dirty”. Unfortunately, the championship game ended up being our 2nd loss of the season. The loss was probably more devastating to the parents than the girls. Some of us had speculations about why we lost, but the truth is, we were simply outplayed.

At home, Jeff and I couldn’t stop talking about the game. Our 8-year-old daughter, being the mature soul that she is, was the one encouraging me, instead of the other way around. After confessing my ugly thoughts and attitude, she spoke wise words to me…, “Who would want a trophy more than God anyway?” 2015-04-25 10.21.28

She was right…

In the end, the evening was a much-needed reminder that no matter how spiritually mature I think I may be, I am still prone to wander no less. Paul, an apostle sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father, gives us a solid reminder in his letter to the churches of Galatia…


“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature for the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.”

Galatians 5: 16-17


That last sentence says it perfectly – “They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” I’d venture to say, that we all want to do the right thing, but if we are not living by the Spirit, we become slaves to our flesh and don’t do the very thing our Spirit knows we ought. Our flesh is weak.

If we are not “gratifying the desires of the sinful nature”, we bear fruit which takes on the form of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

A better example, of this was my husband on the day of the championship game. By nature, he is very competitive and he knows it, so the day of the big game, he had intentionally sought God. Throughout his day, he had prayed, read Scripture, and confessed to God his need for Him. By game time, he was submitted to the Spirit.

With God’s grace, Jeff was able to let things roll off his shoulder and hold his tongue when his flesh wanted to do otherwise. While the rest of us grumbled and complained on the sidelines, he was self-controlled. He was walking in the Spirit.


 Reflect

How are you doing when it comes to living by the Spirit?

Have you been forsaking the Spirit and trying to do things in your own power?

Confess it to God and ask for forgiveness. Ask God for a Spirit of (fill in the blank) >> [love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control].


 Be intentional in every situation

In Paul’s words,

“Watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

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{…even if it is just grumbling at your daughter’s soccer game.}

Waiting on Something Good {In Honor of Mother’s Day}

“I want a “big girl” cup…I don’t want a lid…Not a green straw…I wanna make the chocolate milk…I want a pink fork…I want to pour the syrup…Not a little bit of syrup…I want a lot of syrup…Hold me…I want to sit on your lap…”

This  is a “conversation” my 3-year-old had with me one morning. Within 5 minutes of preparing her breakfast, she had already begun whining and making demands–10, to be exact. Needless to say, it was an unpleasant way to start the day, not to mention exhausting – and that was just 1 out of 3 of my children.

The irony is that without the grumbling, the outcome would have been the same – a warm, toasted waffle drizzled with sweet syrup & a cold cup of chocolate milk. It would have been so much nicer had my daughter taken a seat at the table, waited patiently, and then smiled and said, “Thank you, Mother”. But let’s face it. This is real life and the reality is that 3-year-olds are egocentric. “I want that!”, “I want to do it myself!”, and “No, not that!” are phrases often heard by parents of little ones.

God is masterful in His design of young children. I believe He uses our relationship with our children as an example for us of our relationship with Him. How often do we grumble and complain when He’s patiently preparing something good for us?

“I want that _____!”

“No, not that_____!”

“I want to do it my way!”

Often times we’re too busy whining and complaining to wait patiently for the good things He has in store for us. Maybe it would do us some good to learn from our children. You can learn something from any one, even if it’s what NOT to do.

While we’re learning from our children, let’s also learn from God’s children, the Israelites. They turned what could have been a 2-week journey to the Promised Land into 40 years of wandering in the dessert. Why? Because they were consumed by their grumbling and unbelief.

Let’s not waste time. Let’s not wander aimlessly. God is preparing something good for you. You just need to wait, be patient, and (when God says the time is right) say, “Thank you, Father.”

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“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11


In the mean time, find contentment where you are. There’s a reason you are where you are, doing what you’re doing–even if it is just feeding the hungry bellies God has placed in your care.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!

Bunch of pink peonies


“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31


Reflect

Have you been resisting God’s plans for you? Maybe it’s time to stop trying to do things your way, and instead start trusting His way. Ask Him to help you release (fill in the blank)  to Him. Ask Him to increase your faith in your current situation.

Are you wandering in the dessert? Trust God through this difficult season. He is with you and will see you through. Ask Him, daily, to draw you near to Him. Cling to His promises. Write them on your bathroom mirror. Tape them above the kitchen sink. Bathe yourself in His Truth until it becomes reality for you.


Image credit: www.projectwedding.com, galleryhip.com


The Woman Behind the Writing (Well, Sort of…)

1. My name is Jennifer. I’ve also been called Jen-Jen, Jenn, Jeffernino, and Shaffe-dog. {My maiden name is Shaffer which explains that last one.}

2. When I was a kid, my dad nicknamed me “Little Round Brown One”. I was chubby & tan.

3. I have one sister who is a year older than me, but I’ve always been mistaken for the older sister because I stand a good 4 inches taller than her.

4.Everyone thought my sister and I were twins growing up.

5. My mom is from the Philippines. My dad is from the North. And I grew up in the South. No wonder I was so confused as a child!

6. When I was a kid I used to go to bed listening to my Walkman. If you don’t know what that is, you’re young.

7. The first cassette tapes I owned were Aerosmith & Paula Abdul. (See #5.)

8. I quit choir in 4th grade because of a boy.

9. I drive a minivan but would prefer to drive an SUV due to the “coolness” factor.

10. I was a foster mom for almost 2 years. {It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Props to you, foster parents, out there. My heart still breaks a little when I see old pics of the kiddos we cared for.}

11. I am a peanut butter junkie. Sometimes I just grab the jar and a spoon.

12. I don’t get coupon-ing. I just shop cheap.

13. I really don’t like “stuff”. I can’t stand clutter. However, motherhood has forced me to adapt.

14. I’ve popped my knuckles my whole life. Fortunately, I stopped biting my nails.

15. I love coffee-flavored ice cream. It’s even better topped with M & M’s.

16. I like chocolate.

17. I’m an Arkansan, born and raised. Go Hogs!

18. I see so much of myself in my oldest daughter. It’s scary.

19. I was pretty silent throughout my young childhood and adolescent years.

20. In my early 20s, I started volunteering to do the readings in front of the church to help me get over my fear of speaking. {I attended a catholic church on my college campus.}

21. I’ve tried a lot of sports…basketball, gymnastics, soccer, tennis, golf. Sports are not my thing.

21. Music and creative arts are my thing. I’ve played piano my whole life. I sketched in college. Now, I write.

22. At sporting events, I have a hard time paying  attention because I’m so distracted by everything else going on. (see #21)

23. I’m the assistant coach for my daughter’s soccer team, but I’m pretty much just a glorified cheerleader. Go Team!

24. I have to answer the question, “What happened to your head?”, a lot because of the birthmark on my forehead. It looks like a bruise.

25. I used to be so self-conscious of my hairy arms.

26. I graduated from high school in ’98.

27. I hit my rock bottom in the winter of ’98.

28. If I had a life motto, it would be: “I make cheap look good.”

29. I feed my kids frozen waffles for breakfast way too often.

30. The idea of being “fit” is nice, but life is too short (and crazy for me, right now) so I do what I can, but I still eat the “bad” stuff way too often and  exercise not often enough.